Rochester Lourdes has been sharp in mowing down opponents. Zumbrota-Mazeppa has been equally keen. When they meet Tuesday in this Hiawatha Valley League matchup, expect anything but a dull game in what's looking to be a pitchers' duel.
Since a 5-2 road loss to Faribault in their season opener, the Eagles have cut a path through the competition, winning 11 consecutive games and rarely being tested.
The blade doing a lot of the work is Anna Taylor. The senior righthander has given up more than two runs in a game only once since facing the Falcons (she allowed three in a 10-3 victory over Rochester Mayo on May 1) while piling up the strikeouts (74 and counting) and pushing her win total to a state-best 11. Her season-high for strikeouts in a game (13) came against the Spartans and showed the type of focus and resiliency big-time pitchers need. It also is a benefit that her 0.85 ERA is second to only McKayla Armbruster, Faribault's flamethrower, for pitchers with more than 66 innings pitched, as entered on the MN Softball Hub. Those are the kinds of stats Lourdes' fans have become accustomed to following two successful years led by former standout pitcher Abbey Gapinski, who is playing at Luther College, and has the Eagles (11-1, 7-0) in line for their third consecutive league title.
Zumbrota-Mazeppa began the season with a loss but has won 10 straight, including six conference games, to prevent league-leading Lourdes from flying away in the race for the league title.
The second-place Cougars (10-1, 6-0) have allowed 16 total runs since their 7-6 defeat to Ellsworth on April 2, and if sophomore pitcher Avery Steffen can replicate her performances against Jordan and Kenyon-Wanamingo on Tuesday, she may be able to match her counterpart and help ground the Eagles.
The righthander allowed four hits and four walks while striking out 24 in shutout victories over Jordan and Kenyon-Wanamingo.